Thomas Edison once said his inventions were 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. On Collapsing, Milwaukee’s Jay Flash doesn’t quite meet the 1 percent quota for inspiration, though he does supplement the album with some very hard work. On the album’s aptly titled opening track, “Piano Instrumental No. 4,” a piano starts out alone, but is quickly joined by a viola and electronic percussion. An artist like RJD2 would marry these sounds as if they were always meant to be together. But several of Collapsing’s pieces sound more like overcompensation for a less-than remarkable melody.
Flash’s lyrical aims can be just as overreaching as his melodic ones. An album that features the religious proselytizing of “Falling Apart” and a Malcolm X sound bite comes off as desperate to say something worth saying. Collapsing is more genuine when it’s simpler. The album is split in two: The first half is based more in acoustic instruments, while the second half is entirely electronic. There is an awkward tension between the acoustic and electric in the first six songs, but Flash is more comfortable with himself in the album’s second half. Electronic pieces like “Forward,” “Magic,” and “My Heart” are assured and, more important, enjoyable.
The album is full of experimentation and the sounds of an artist testing his own talents. Those experiments don’t always succeed, but they don’t always fail either. Though Flash spends a lot of time looking for a voice, he sometimes stops looking long enough to play us a winning song.